US 4855714 A
There is a controller connected to a plurality of probes via a transmission line. Each probe includes sensors which provide voltage signals related to the fluid status in the probe environment. The voltage signals are applied to a voltage controlled oscillator which in turn provides an oscillating signal for transmission to the controller. A counter in the controller is controlled by a timer to count the number of oscillations of the transmitted signal over a predetermined time period. The count is represented by a digital signal which is processed to provide an indication of the fluid status of the probes. Probe circuit temperature is also transmitted to the controller for use in correcting the received oscillator frequency.
1. A fluid status detection system comprising:
a controller, a plurality of probes for sensing the status of fluids at probe locations remote from the controller, and a transmission line connecting said controller and said probes, wherein said controller comprises:
means for sensing the fluid environment of the probe and producing a voltage signal characteristic of the status of said fluid environment;
a voltage controlled oscillator means responsive to said voltage signal for providing an oscillating signal the frequency of which is representative of said status of said fluid environment; and
wherein said controller comprises indicator means responsive to said oscillating status signal for providing an indication of the sensed fluid status.
2. The fluid detector of claim 1 wherein said indicator means further comprises a means for varying the resolution of said sensed fluid status.
3. The fluid detector of claim 1 wherein said indicator means comprises:
timing means for determining a time period, and
counting means for counting the number of oscillations of said oscillating signal during said time period and for providing a digital signal representative of said number of oscillations.
4. The fluid status detection system of claim 1 wherein said voltage controlled oscillator means is incorporated in an electrical circuit and wherein said means for sensing further includes a means for sensing the temperature of said electrical circuit and for producing a voltage signal characteristic of said temperature.
5. The fluid status detection system of claim 1 wherein said means for sensing further includes a means for producing a reference voltage signal and for providing said reference signal to said voltage controlled oscillator for communication to said controller.
FIG. 1 illustrates the preferred embodiment of the invention as it may be installed at a gasoline station. A plurality of probes 20 through 29 detect the status of their environment and provide signals over transmission line 30 to a controller 40 which would generally be located in the service building 33. Some probes, such as 21, 24 and 27 may extend down wells 35, 36 and 37, respectively, external to gasoline tanks 39A, 39B and 39C. Some, such as 26, may be extended between the walls of a double-walled tank, such as 39C. Others, such as 25, may extend inside the tanks to measure the liquid level in the tanks. The invention contemplates that other types of probes may also be used. The controller 40 transmits a command signal comprising a probe identifier signal and a data signal, as shown in FIG. 3. The command signal is decoded within probe communication module 20B (see FIG. 4) and the data signal is passed to the selecting means 134, which in the preferred embodiment comprises a multiplexer, via lines 148. (See FIGS. 9 and 10.) Sensors such as 130, 131, 132, 140 and 141 provide status signals to multiplexer 134 over channels 136 and 146. The multiplexer 134 selects a channel and applies the signal on it to one of voltage to frequency converters 135, 147, which output an oscillating signal which is applied to the probe output -SO, through the communications module 20B switch 63 when the identifier signal agrees with the local probe address applied to decoder 60.
Upon receiving the oscillating signal from the probes, the controller counts the number of oscillations occurring over a predetermined time period and presents the count to a processor 90 (FIG. 6) which provides an indication of the probe status which may take the form of a message on printer 41 or liquid crystal display 42, an alarm on audio alarm 45, an external alarm via phone 46 or speaker 47 or a report on an external data terminal 49. 0-r the status report could trigger a pump 48 to remove leaking pollutants. Keyboards 50 and 51 on controller 40 may be used to input data, commands and otherwise communicate with the system.
Turning now to a more detailed description of the preferred embodiment of the invention, FIG. 2 shows the interconnection between the probes and the controller. The controller 40 is connected to the probes via a transmission line 30 which in the preferred embodiment is a six-wire cable. Each probe, such as 20, preferably includes a junction box, such as 20A, a communication module, such as 20B, and a sensor module, such as 20C. Preferably the junction box (20A) and the communication module (20B) are identical for each probe. The sensor module may be a fluid sensor in a well such as 35 (FIG. 1), a liquid level sensor such as 25C, a between-the-wall fluid sensor, such as 26B, a vapor sensor or any one of a number of different fluid status sensors. Examples of such sensors are described below in reference to FIGS. 9-13. Communications modules are shown at 24B, 25B and 26B in FIG. 1. The junction boxes are not shown in FIG. 1 as the scale is not sufficient to show them clearly. The junction box and the communication module will be discussed in terms of the junction box 20A and communication module 20B associated with the first probe 20, although it is understood that these portions are the same for all probes. The preferred communication module is discussed below with reference to FIGS. 2, 4 and 5. The controller includes a positive power output terminal (+PO), a negative power output terminal (-PO), a positive identifier signal output terminal (+IO), a negative identifier signal output terminal (-IO), a positive status signal input terminal (+SI), and a negative status signal input terminal (-SI). The junction box 20A includes, at the left, positive and negative input power terminals (+PI, -PI), positive and negative identifier signal input terminals (+II, -II), positive and negative status signal output terminals (+SO, -SO) each of which are connected to the corresponding terminal on the controller (+PI to +PO, -PI to -PO, +II to +IO, etc.). On the right the junction box includes positive and negative power output terminals (+PO, -PO), positive and negative identifier signal output terminals (+IO, -IO) and positive and negative status signal input terminals (+SI, -SI) which are connected to the corresponding terminals on the next junction box (+PO to +PI, -PO to -PI, +IO to +II, -IO to -II, +SI to +SO and -SI to -SO). The junction box terminals are connected to the communication module as will be clear from the discussion of FIGS. 4 and 5.
In the preferred embodiment the identifier signal is part of a 16-bit digital Manchester encoded command sent by the controller 40 to the probes. The format for this command is shown in FIG. 3. The first four bits and the eleventh and twelfth bits are fixed. AO through A4 represent the identifier signal. Up to 32 probes may be addressed by these 4 bits. D0 through D3 represent a data word which may be used to control the sensor module. This word may be used to address one of sixteen data channels.
FIG. 4 shows a block circuit diagram of the system communication network. The communication network portions of the controller include optocoupler 54, transistor 55 and resistors 56, 57, 58 and 59. Resistor 59 is connected between the Vcc internal power source (an approximately 5 volt power supply) of the controller and +IO output terminal. The collector of transistor 55 is connected to the -IO output terminal. The emitter of transistor 55 is connected to ground and the base is connected to ground through resistor 57 and to the identifier signal (digital word) output through resistor 58. The positive status signal input terminal (+SI) is connected to the anode of the optocoupler diode, and the negative status signal input terminal (-SI) is connected to the cathode. The emitter of the optocoupler is connected to ground while the collector is connected to the Vcc power supply through resistor 56 and to the status signal input.
The communication module includes decode circuitry 60, decrement circuitry 61, encode circuitry 62, optocouplers 64 and 65, inverters 66, 67, 68 and 69 and resistors 73, 74, 75 and 76. The identifier signal input terminals +II and -II are connected across the optocoupler 64 diode with the positive connected to the anode and the negative connected to the cathode. The emitter of optocoupler 64 is connected to the probe ground and the collector is connected to the probe power supply Vbb (an approximately 5 volt power source) through resistor 74 and to the input of inverter 69. The output of inverter 69 is connected to the input of the decode logic 60. The decode logic compares the 5-bit probe identifier address A0 through A4 to the local address; and if it matches it, places a signal on the select (sel) output which is applied to switch 63 to cause it to switch to the local probe status in line. If the identifier address does not match the local address it is sent to decrement logic 61 where it is decremented by one and passed to the encode logic 62. A signal is also placed on the select output to cause switch 63 to switch to the status signal probe input. The data word D0 through D3 is passed to the encode logic and to the sensor module data input. The decode logic also checks the digital data word for validity, and if it is valid, it places a signal on the data valid output which is applied to the encode logic 62 to cause it to apply the encoded signal to the input of inverter 66. The output of inverter 66 is connected to the -IO terminal. The +IO terminal is connected to the Vbb power source through resistor 76. The +SI terminal is connected to the anode of the optocoupler 65 diode and the -SI terminal to its cathode. The emitter of the optocoupler 65 is connected to ground and the collector is connected to the Vbb source through resistor 75 and to the input of inverter 67. The output of inverter 67 is connected to the status signal probe input of switch 63. The output of switch 63 is connected to the input of inverter 68. The output of inverter 68 is connected to the -SO terminal, and the +SO terminal is connected to the Vbb power source through resistor 73.
FIG. 5 is a detailed electrical circuit diagram of the communications module. In addition to the parts discussed in reference to FIG. 4, the circuit includes a DC to DC converter 81, and inverters 83 and 84. The decode logic 60 and decrement logic 61 are implemented together using decoder 77, shift registers 78 and 79 and adders 80 and 82 The encode logic comprises encoder 62. The +PI and -PI inputs are connected to a DC to DC converter which provides isolation of the probe power supply. The DC to DC converter also permits an input voltage of 24 VDC. This higher distribution voltage reduces the current drain of each probe on the distribution system, thereby reducing the IR losses in the transmission line 30, allowing the use of more probes. The outputs of the converter 81 provide the probe power source Vbb and the probe ground. The numbers within the rectangles representing the IC chips 77, 78, 79, 80, 81 and 62 indicate the inputs/outputs of those chips which are explained in the literature provided with the particular chips (see below). The output of inverter 69 is connected to the SI input of decoder 77. The DV output of decoder 77 is connected to the SDI input of encoder 62. The SO and DC outputs of decoder 77 are connected to the D and CLK inputs respectively of shift register 78. The DC output is also connected to the CLK input of shift register 79. The DRS output of decoder 77 is connected to the MR inputs of shift registers 78 and 79 through inverter 83. The Dl through D15 inputs of decoder 77 are connected to ground. The Q7 output of shift register 78 is connected to the D input of shift register 79 while the Q6 output is connected to the A0 input of adder 81. The Q0 through Q3 outputs of shift register 78 are connected to the D12 through D15 inputs of encoder 62 and also to the sensor module terminal block 87 with the D3 (Q0) line being inverted by inverter 84. The QO through Q3 outputs of shift register 79 are connected to the A3 through A0 inputs respectively of adder 80. The B0 through B3 inputs of adders 80 and 81 are connected to the Vbb voltage source. The S1 through S4 outputs of adder 80 are connected to the D4 through D7 input respectively of encoder 62. The CI input of adder 81 is grounded. The CO output of adder 81 is connected to the CI input of adder 80 while the S1 output is connected to the D9 input of encoder 62. The D0 output of encoder 62 is applied to the input of inverter 66. The sensor module ground and voltage source inputs are connected to the communications module ground and voltage source, Vbb, respectively through terminal block 87. The other connections are as discussed in reference to FIG. 4.
In the preferred embodiment, encoder 62 is a Manchester coder/decoder Supertex type ED9, adders 80 and 81 are 4-bit adders National Semiconductor type 74HC283, shift registers 78 and 79 are RCA type CD74HC164, decoder 77 is a Supertex type ED5 Manchester coder/decoder, optocouplers 54, 64 and 65 are Texas Instruments type TIL153's, transistor 55 is a type PN2222, the inverters 66 through 69 and 83 and 84 are a National Semiconductor Schmitt hex inverter type 74HC14, DC to DC converter 81 is a 24 volt to 5 volt converter, resistors 57, 59, 73, and 76 are 1K ohm, 58 is a 2K ohm resistor, resistors 56, 73, 74 and 75 are 10K ohm, and switch 63 is a quad multiplexer type CD74HC157 from RCA.
FIG. 6 shows a block circuit diagram of the preferred embodiment of the controller 40. It comprises a processor 90, a memory 91, keyboards 92, outputs 93, command signal interface 95 and status signal interface 96. The processor receives instruction from keyboards 92 and input from status signal interface 96 and utilizes stored programs from memory 91 to activate appropriate outputs via display 42, printer 41, alarm 45, (FIG. 1) etc. to provide an indication of the probe status. The processor 90, memory 91, keyboards 92 and outputs 93 may be any one of a number of such components that are well-known in the art; as for example the processor, memory, keyboards, displays, etc. described in U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,756,193 and 4,740,777 on inventions of Laurence S. Slocum and Sara M. Mussmann for Programmable Fluid Detectors. Thus, these components will not be discussed further herein. The command signal interface and status signal interface are, however, unique in the field of fluid detectors and therefore will be described in detail.
FIG. 7 shows the detailed circuit diagram for the command signal interface 95. It comprises parallel interface adapter 100, transmitter 101, resistors 103, 57, 58 and 59, and capacitors 104 and 105. The numbers on the integrated circuits, such as parallel interface adaptor 100, near the connecting lines refer to the pin numbers of the circuits, while the letters in the interior refer to the internal signals. The numbers 5, 8, 9 and 27 through 36 pins of the parallel interface adapter are connected to the data and timing outputs of the processor as appropriate to transmit the probe address and sensor module data. The number 6 pin is connected to the device enable circuitry associated with the processor. The number 1 through 4 pins of adapter 100 are connected to the 7 through 10 pins respectively of transmitter 101. The number 40 pin of adapter 100 is connected to the number 6 pin of transmitter 101. The number 18 through 21 pins of adapter 100 are connected to the 14 through 11 pins respectively of transmitter 101. The number 14 pin of adapter 100 is connected to the number 4 pin of transmitter 101. The number 3 pin of transmitter 101 is connected to the system voltage source, Vcc, through capacitor 105, and the number 15 pin is also connected to the Vcc voltage. The number 18 pin of transmitter 101 is connected to the number 2 pin through capacitor 104 and the number 1 pin through resistor 103. The number 16 pin of transmitter 101 and the number 26 pin of adapter 100 are connected to the Vcc voltage and the number 17 pin of transmitter 101 and the number 7 pin of adapter 100 are connected to ground. The number 5 pin of transmitter 101 provides the output command signal to the probes which is also the Identifier Signal Output shown in FIG. 4.
The command signal interface circuit 95 works as follows. The parallel interface adapter 100 is connected to the processor and other elements of the circuit so as to provide the probe address (identifier signal) on its A0 through A4 outputs and the sensor data signal on its B0 through B3 outputs. Pin 14 of the adapter 100 strobes the transmitter 101 when the identifier signal and sensor signal is at the adapter outputs and transmitter 101 then transmits the signal as a Manchester encoded serial digital signal on output pin 5. The circuit comprising transistor 55 and resistors 57 and 58 is a buffer circuit, while the circuit comprising resistor 103 and capacitors 104 and 105 is an RC clock which provides the timing for transmitter 101. In the preferred embodiment parallel interface adapter 100 is a type 82C55A and transmitter 100 is a type ED-9 Manchester transmitter while resistor 103 is 40K ohms and capacitors 104 and 105 are 1,000 picofarads and 100 picofarads respectively which provide a 10K hertz timing signal.
Turning now to FIG. 8, the detailed circuitry for the status signal interface 96 is shown. It includes parallel interface adapter 110, counters 111 and 112, one-shot latches, 115 and 116, counter 117, Schmitt-trigger inverters 119 and 120, resistors 56, 122 and 125 and capacitors 123 and 124. The numbers 5, 8, 9, 17, and 27-36, pins of adapter 110 are connected to the processor 90 and the number 6 pin is connected to the chip select circuitry associated with processor 90. The number 26 pin of adapter 110 is connected to the Vcc voltage, while the number 7 pin is connected to ground. The 1 through 7 pins of counter 112 are connected to the 3, 2, 1, 40, 39, 38 and 37 pins respectively of adapter 110. The number 15 pin of counter 112 is connected to the number 4 pin of adapter 110, while the number 15 pin of counter 111 is connected to the number 18 pin of adapter 110. The number 1 through 7 pins of counter 111 are connected to the 19 through 25 pins respectively of adapter 110. The number 13 and 16 pins of adapter 110 are connected to the Q output of latch 116. The number 10 pin of adapter 110 is connected to the reset inputs of latches 115 and 116 and to the input of inverter 120. The number 16 pins of counters 111 and 112 are connected to the Vcc voltage while their number 8 and 14 pins are connected to ground. Their number 10 pins are each connected to the Q output of latch 116, their number 11 pins to the output of inverter 119, and their number 13 pins to the Q output of latch 115. The number 12 pin of counter 112 is also connected to the Q output of latch 115 while the number 12 pin of counter 111 is connected to the number 9 pin of counter 112. The CX output of latch 115 is connected to its R/C input through capacitor 124, while the CX output of latch 116 is connected to its R/C input through capacitor 123. The R/C input of latch 115 is also connected to the Vcc voltage through resistor 125 while the R/C input of latch 116 is also connected to Vcc through resistor 122. The B inputs of latches 115 and 116 are connected to the Vcc voltage. The A input of latch 115 is connected to the Q7 output (number 3 pin) of counter 117 while the A input of latch 116 is connected to the Q output of latch 115. The number 14 pin of counter 117 is connected to Vcc while its number 7 pin is grounded. The clock input (number 1 pin) of counter 117 is connected to the processor timer function, TMROUTO. The reset input of counter 117 is connected to the output of inverter 120. The input of inverter 119 is connected to the number 5 pin of optoisolator 54, which provides the Status Signal In signal shown in FIG. 4.
The status signal interface operates as follows: After processor 90, as described above in reference to FIG. 7, sends a command to a probe asking for its status, it waits a time long enough for the command to go out along the probe communication network and the probe that was addressed to report the status requested. It then addresses the parallel interface adapter 110 causing it to strobe the reset inputs of the counter 117 and latches 115 and 116. This causes the latches to turn on the counters 111 and 112 to begin reading the frequency coming in on the +SI input terminal and counter 117 to begin clocking a time period over which the frequency will be read. The time is controlled by the processor via the TMROUTO function. If the processor is asking for a status that requires a high resolution reading of the SI signal coming in, it will put a low frequency signal as TIMROUTO, and if it is asking for a status that requires a low resolution reading, it will put a higher frequency signal as TMROUTO. The counter 117 will then count for a predetermined number of counts which define length of time period over which the SI signal will be read. When counter 117 times out, it activates the one-shots 115 and 116 which shut down the counters 111 and 112. The processor then tells the parallel interface adapter 110 to read the count of counters 111 and 112, which are connected to operate as a single 16 bit connector, which the adapter does and reports the count read back to the processor 90. It then signals the processor it is finished via the INT2 signal output on pin 17.
The count of counters 111 and 112 which is reported to the processor 90 is a digital signal related to the frequency of the voltage controlled oscillator 135, 147 in the probe in which the fluid status was sensed. The microprocessor uses the TMROUTO frequency to determine an absolute value of the oscillator frequency. For example the inverse of the TMROUTO frequency is proportional to the period over which the voltage controlled oscillator frequency was read. If the count of counters 111 and 112 is multiplied by the inverse of TMROUTO, a number is obtained which is proportional to the average oscillation frequency of the VCO, or average of the status signal, over the period. If the lower TMROUTO frequency is output by the processor, then the period will be longer and the number of oscillations averaged over will be greater and the resolution of the status signal will be higher. The processor 90 utilizes the digital status signal to provide an indication of the sensed condition in a manner known in the art.
In the preferred embodiment, parallel interface adapter 110 is a type 82655A, counters 111 and 112 are each type 74HC590 eight- bit counters, latches 115 and 116 are type 74HC221, counter 117 is a 74HC4020, inverters 119 and 120 are 74HC14's, resistors 122 and 125 are each 2K ohms and capacitor 123 and 124 are each 1000 picofarads.
Turning now to the description of an exemplary sensor module, FIG. 9 shows a block circuit diagram of a fluid level sensor, such as 25C. This module includes a fluid level sensor 130, a water/hydrocarbon sensor 131, temperature sensors 132, multiplexer 134, and voltage to frequency converter 135. Each of the sensors 130, 131, and 132 apply voltage signals to multiplexer 134. The data input lines 148 from terminal block 87 are also connected to multiplexer 134. Responding to the data signals on lines 148 which originated in the controller 40, the multiplexer places on converter 135 the voltage corresponding to the status requested by the controller. Converter 135 converts the voltage to a frequency signal which is the status signal, and outputs the status signal to the local probe status terminal of terminal block 87.
FIG. 10 shows a block electrical circuit diagram of another exemplary sensor module, a sensor intended to be placed in a well, such as 35 (FIG. 1), and which differentiates between water, hydrocarbon and air. This module includes a water/hydrocarbon sensor 140, a liquid/gas sensor 141, logic circuit 142, analog switch 143, voltage divider 144, multiplexer 134, and voltage to frequency converter 147. The sensors 140 and 141 each apply voltage signals to logic circuit 142 which determines if hydrocarbon, water or air is present and applies a signal indicative of which is present to analog switch 143. Voltage divider 144 employing a reference voltage level from converter 147, generates three analog voltage levels which are applied to switch 143. Switch 143 applies one of the voltage levels, which is determined by the input from logic circuit 142, to multiplexer 134. The data signal from controller 40 is applied to multiplexer 134 via data input lines 148. Converter 147 also applies a temperature signal indicative of the temperature of the IC chip to multiplexer 134. In response to the data command from controller 40 and using a reference voltage from voltage to frequency converter 147, multiplexer 134 places one of the voltages provided by the divider 144 or the temperature signal voltage to converter 147 which converts it to a frequency signal and applies this signal to the local probe status terminal of terminal block 87.
In the preferred embodiment of the invention, the fluid level sensor module of FIG. 9 and the fluid sensor module of FIG. 10 are implemented on a single circuit board which is shown in FIG. 11. Different circuits are connected on the board and different components are connected to the board via terminal block connector 150A to provide the two different sensor modules. The components that are connected to terminal block 150A to form the fluid level sensor of FIG. 9 are shown in FIG. 12, while the components that are connected to the terminal block 150A to form the fluid sensor module of FIG. 10 are shown in FIG. 13.
Referring to FIG. 12 in the preferred embodiment the sensor for the fluid level module comprises temperature sensors 210, 211, 212, liquid level sensor 215, conducting electrode tips 217 and 218 and connector 150B. The temperature sensors 210, 211 and 213 are preferably located at different depths of tank 39C, the level sensor is mounted vertically in the tank, and the conducting tips 217 and 218 are located at or near the bottom of the tank. The wires 219 connect the sensor and the connector 150B which plugs into converter 150A in the probe sensor module circuit board located at the top of probe sensor module 25C.
Referring to FIG. 13, the fluid sensor module sensors include conducting electrode tips 221 and 222 and switch 224 which is activated by the movement of a float 225 shown schematically. The fluid sensor is preferably located in a well such as 35 outside the tank with the float 225 free to move up and down the well 35 with the liquid level and the conducting tips 221 and 222 mounted in the float so that they extend into the liquid. The float switch 224 and the conducting tips 221 and 222 are connected by wires 228 to connector 150C which plugs into connector 150A mounted on the circuit board located near the top of the well.
A detailed electrical circuit diagram of the preferred sensor module circuit board is shown in FIG. 11. The circuit includes multiplexer 134, logic/analog switch I.C. 151 which functions both as logic circuit 142 and analog switch 143, voltage to frequency converter 135, voltage to frequency converter 147, inverters 152 through 157, constant current diode 160, diodes 161 and 162, potentiometers 165 through 170, capacitors 171 through 176, resistors 180 through 198, jumpers 201, 202, 203, and connectors 87B and 150A. The GD or ground pin of connector 87B connects to the board system ground while the Vbb pin connects to the system voltage line. The status pin connects to the number 9 pin of converter 147, the number 14 pin of converter 135 and the Vbb voltage through resistor 185. The D0 data input of connector 87B connects to the number 11 pin of multiplexer 134 and the number 11 pin of logic/switch 151 through jumper 201. Note that the solid line on jumpers 201, 202 and 203 indicates the connection for the level sensor module of FIG. 9, while the dotted line indicates the connection for the fluid sensor module of FIG. 10. Logic/switch 151 and converter 147 are not required for the level sensor module of FIG. 9 and may be omitted in the boards for the module, while converter 135 is not required for the fluid sensor module of FIG. 10 and may be omitted in boards intended for that module. Data input D1 is connected to pin 10 of multiplexer 134 and to pin 10 of logic/switch 151 through jumper 203. Data input D2 is connected to pins 9 of multiplexer 134 and logic/switch 151. Data input D3 is connected to the number 6 pin of logic/switch 151 through jumper 202, while data input D3 is connected to pin 6 of multiplexer 134. The conducting tip input pin C of connector 150A is connected to the input of inverter 154 and the anode of diode 161 through capacitor 175; the input of inverter 154 is also connected to the Vbb voltage through resistor 186. Inverters 152, etc. are a hex inverter chip, the voltage input of which is connected to the Vbb voltage and the ground of which is grounded. The output of inverter 153 is connected to the input of inverter 152 through capacitor 173, while the output of inverter 152 is connected to the input of inverter 153 and also is connected to its own input through resistor 181. The output of inverter 153 is connected to the cathode of diode 161 and the anode of the diode is connected to the input of inverter 154. The output of inverter 154 is connected to the input of inverter 155, and the output of inverter 155 is connected to the anode of diode 162. The cathode of diode 162 is connected to the input of inverter 156, to ground through capacitor 176, and also to ground through resistor 194. The output of inverter 156 is connected to the input of inverter 157. The output of inverter 157 is connected to the number 5 pin of multiplexer 134 through resistor 196, and the same pin is also connected to ground through resistor 195. The output of inverter 157 is also connected to pin 10 of logic/switch 151 through jumper 203 in the fluid sensor module embodiment. One side and the adjustable contact of each of potentiometer 168, 169 and 170 is connected to ground while the other side is connected to pins 14, 15 and 12 respectively of multiplexer 134 through resistors 187, 188 and 189 respectively; pins 14, 15 and 12 are also connected to the numbers 1, 2, and 3 temperature inputs (T1, T2 and T3) of connector 150A. The level 1 input, L1, of connector 150A is connected to the number 1 pin of multiplexer 134 and to the Vbb voltage through constant current diode 160, with the cathode of the diode toward the level 1 input. The level 2, L2, input of connector 150A is connected to the number 13 pin of multiplexer 134 and also to ground through resistor 197. The float switch input, F, of connector 150A is connected to the number 11 pin of logic/switch 151 through jumper 201 in the fluid sensor module embodiment, and also to the Vbb voltage source through resistor 198. The V and G pins of connector 150A are connected to the Vbb voltage and ground respectively. The number 13 and 15 pins of logic/switch 151 are connected to ground through resistor 191 and also connected to its number 12 pin through resistor 193. The number 12 pin is also connected to the number 14 pin through resistor 192; the number 14 pin is also connected to the number 4 pin of multiplexer 134, to the adjustable input of potentiometer 166, and to the number 4 pin of converter 147 through resistor 190. The number 7 and 8 pins of logic/switch 151 and multiplexer 134 are all grounded, while the number 16 pin of each are connected to the Vbb voltage. The number 3 pins of each are connected to the number 2 pin of converter 147 and the number 5 pin of converter 135. The number 2 pin of multiplexer 134 is connected to the number 6 pin of converter 135 and to the number 3 pin of converter 147. The number 1 pin of converter 147 is connected to ground through resistor 180, the number 5 and 10 pins are grounded and the number 6 pin is connected to the number seven pin through capacitor 171. The number 8 pin of converter 147 is connected to the adjustable input of potentiometer 165 and to pin 13 of converter 135. The other inputs of potentiometer 165 are connected to pins 9 and 10 respectively of converter 135. Pin 13 of converter 135 is also connected to the Vbb voltage through resistor 184 and to ground through capacitor 174. Pin 11 of converter 135 is connected to pin 12 through capacitor 172. Pins 3 and 4 of converter 135 are connected to one side of potentiometer 167 through resistor 183. The other side of potentiometer 167 is connected to ground. The adjustable input of potentiometer 167 is connected to ground. Pins 1 and 8 of converter 135 are also connected to ground. Pin 7 of converter 135 is connected to one side of potentiometer 166, while the other side of the potentiometer is connected to ground through resistor 182.
In the preferred embodiment of the invention multiplexer 134 and logic/analog switch 151 are type CD4051BCN multiplexers, voltage to frequency converter 147 and 135 are type AD537JH V/F converters available from Analog Devices, inverters 152 through 157 are implemented in a single hex inverter type CD4069CN, diodes 161 and 162 are of type IN914's, constant current diode 160 is a type IN5297, potentiometer 165 is a 20K ohm, 15 turn potentiometer 166 is a 10K ohm, 15 turn potentiometer, 167 is a 200K ohm, 15 turn potentiometer, 168, 169 and 170 are 100 ohm, 15 turn potentiometers, capacitors 172, 173, 174, 175 and 176 are 0.01 microfarad, 4700 picofarad, 10 microfarad, 0.1 microfarad and 1 microfarad respectively. Resistors 180 through 198 are 1K ohm, 220K ohm, 60.4K ohm, 909 ohm, 100 ohm, 5K ohm, 270K ohm, 953 ohm, 953 ohm, 953 ohm, 24K ohm, 24K ohm, 24K ohm, 24K ohm, 100K ohm, 10K ohm, 90K ohm, 10 ohm, and 100K ohm respectively. In the preferred embodiment of the sensors of FIG. 12 and 13 the temperature sensors 210, 211, and 212 are type AD590 temperature sensors available from Analog Devices, level sensor 215 is preferably a Metritape™ available from, Metritape, Inc., P.O. Box 2366, Littleton, Mass. 01460, the float 225, float switch 224, and conducting electrode tips 221 of the fluid sensor of FIG. 13 are a float assembly of the type used with the FD probe series (FD241R, FD 241S, FD241P) available from Pollulert Systems, Inc., P.O. Box 706, Indianapolis, Ind. 46206-0706 and as described in U.S. Pat. No. 4,442,405 issued to Raymond J. Andrejasich. The conducting electrode tips 217 and 218 are electrodes as described in the foregoing patent, preferably made of platinum, and connectors 150A, 150B and 150C are preferably stake and header connectors while connectors 87A and 87B are preferably 1510D male and female connectors, or both connectors may be hard wired.
Turning now to a summary of the function of the fluid level sensor module of FIGS. 9, 11 and 12 in conjunction with the controller 40 and probe communication system, the fluid level sensor has the principal function of measuring the fluid level in a storage tank such as 39C. It also measures the temperature at three depths along the sensor. Water in the storage tank is detected via conductance electrodes 217 and 218 installed at the bottom of the level sensor module 25C. The liquid level is transduced into an analog signal by the level sensor 215 which may be described as a long variable resistor the submerged part of which is short-circuited by hydrostatic pressure of the liquid in which it is immersed. The temperature sensing is accomplished by two-terminal electronic devices 210, 211 and 212 which conduct current in direct proportion to their absolute or Kelvin temperature. Two reference voltages, V Ref High and V Ref Low, are also measured and reported by the sensor, one near the top and one near the bottom of the analog signal range, these data being necessary to enable the controller 40 to decode the telemetered data. Finally, a signal, V temp, representing the temperature of the electronics package is available for transmission to the controller 40 upon command.
Referring to FIG. 9, an eight-channel analog multiplexer 134 under command of a three-bit digital word from the controller selects one from among an ensemble of eight analog input channels 136 and connects it to the input of voltage to frequency converter 135. The output of converter 135 is a symmetric square wave whose frequency is directly proportional to the analog input voltage. This signal is well suited for transmission through the probe chain to the controller 40, where it is decoded by counting techniques and interpreted with respect to reference signals transmitted through the same chain. Two of the analog input signals to the multiplexer are auxiliary outputs of the converter 135. The signal flow is otherwise straight forward.
Referring to FIGS. 11 and 12, the liquid level sensing circuit consists of a Metritape™ variable resistor 215 excited by a constant current diode 160. The resistance of the level sensor 215, and hence the voltage across it, is proportional to the length of the sensor which is in air. The difference between the air height and the sensor overall height is taken to be the depth of liquid in the storage tank. A 10 ohm reference resistor 197 is inserted between the level sensor and ground. The voltage across this resistor when excited by the 1 ma constant current source is a 10 mV level called low. This is done in preference to using zero volts as a reference level to avoid requiring converter 135 to operate at the extreme of its range.
The temperature sensors 210, 211 and 212 are semiconductor devices which are two-terminal current sources that conduct a current which is proportional to the absolute or Kelvin temperature with a nominal scale factor of 1 microamp per degree Kelvin. For temperature 1, the sensor 210 is read out by converting its current into the voltage across grounded resistor 187. Variable resistor 168 is a scale factor trim which is employed as a single point calibration adjustment. The result is a scale factor of 1 millivolt/degree Kelvin. Temperatures 2 and 3 are read similarly.
The water/hydrocarbon sensor circuit consists of a multivibrator, an alternating-current conductance-sensing circuit, and a half-wave rectifier and filter circuit. A conventional CMOS free-running multivibrator is formed by inverters 152 and 153, resistor 181, and capacitor 173. A square wave at about 500 Hz is present at the output of inverter 153. When the conducting tips 217 and 218 are in air or oil, capacitor 175 is effectively not in the circuit and the square wave appears at the input of inverter 154 and the output of inverter 155. Diode 162 and capacitor 176 form a peak detector which is discharged by resistor 194. When the square wave is present at the output of inverter 155, a high level is present at the input of inverter 156 and hence at the output of inverter 157. When water is present between the conducting tips 217 and 218 capacitor 175 is effectively connected to ground and the voltage at the input of inverter 154 does not have time to rise significantly from the low level to which it is set by the conduction of diode 161; that is, there is insufficient current flow through resistor 186 to charge capacitor 175 during the positive half period of the multivibrator. In effect, the square wave is shorted to ground by capacitor 175 and the water conductance across the conducting tips 217 and 218. Accordingly, diode 162 does not conduct and a low level obtains at the input of inverter 156 and at the output of inverter 157, the latter of which constitutes the logic signal which indicates that water is present. The circuit output switches sharply at a conducting tip resistance of about 150K ohm. The threshold resistance can be increased by increasing the value of resistor 186.
An eight channel analog multiplexer integrated circuit 134 suffices for the level sensor, though the other multiplexer 151 is available if expansion to more channels is desired. The outputs (pin 3) of the multiplexers 134 and 151 are hardwired together because a high level on the inhibit line (pin 6) of the deselected chip places all of its analog switches in the high impedance state.
The voltage to frequency converter integrated circuit 135 produces a square wave logic signal output having a frequency that is proportional to the analog input signal voltage with a nominal scale factor of 10K Hertz/volt. As used in this circuit, the input impedance seen by the analog input source is about 250 megohms, with an input bias current of 100 na. Therefore, errors due to loading and input current are less than 0.1% and are thus negligible. In order to secure the maximum dynamic range of which the converter 135 is capable, it is necessary to null the input amplifier. This is accomplished with potentiometer 165.
The scaling equation relating output frequency to input signal voltage in this circuit is: F out=Vin/10 (resistance 183+resistance 167) x capacitance 172. Potentiometer 167 is used to adjust the scale factor. The V/F converter 135 provides the voltage reference output on pin 7 which is specified as 1 volt.+-.5%. Potentiometer 166 is used to create a precise 900 mV.+-.1 mV reference called Vref high, which is connected to the multiplexer 134 at pin 4.
Another output signal from the converter 135 is a thermometer output representing the chip absolute temperature with a scale factor of 1 mV/ accurate within .+-.5 Kelvin degrees at room temperature. This reference output is connected to the multiplexer 134 at pin 2 and is used to indicate the temperature of the sensor module electronics package. This temperature may be used by processor 90 in a conventional fashion to correct the received converter frequency as indicated in the manufacturer's specifications provided with the VCO chip. Such correction is not necessary if the voltage levels provided to the voltage controlled oscillator are spaced more widely than the changes in frequency due to temperature and/or if the probe circuit temperature is relatively stable.
Turning now to a summary of the function of the fluid sensor module of FIGS. 10, 11 and 13 in conjunction with the controller 40 and the probe communication system; the purpose of the fluid sensor module 149 is to detect the presence of liquid and determine whether the liquid is hydrocarbon or water. A float switch 224 detects that liquid is present; an electrical conductance circuit 140 discriminates between hydrocarbon and water. These two inputs to a logic circuit 142 determine which of three analog levels is presented to voltage-to-frequency-converter 147. The resulting one of three frequencies is transmitted through the probe chain to the controller 40 to be decoded by a counting technique. Referring to the block diagram in FIG. 10, a water/hydrocarbon sensor 140 gives a logic signal which is high when electrical resistivity between conducting tips 221 and 222 is above a threshold value (about 150K ohm) and low when the resistivity is below the threshold. Thus a low output signifies that water is present between the tips. The float switch 224 generates a logic signal signifying that flotation has occurred. A logic circuit processes these two inputs and controls an analog switch 143 to connect one of three analog levels generated by voltage divider 144 to multiplexer 134. Input signals from the controller 40 control the analog channel selected by the multiplexer 134. In the fluid sensor 149, four multiplexer channels 146 are utilized; they are: air-oil-water signal, reference voltage (nominal 1 volt); zero volt reference; and thermometer output signal. Converter 147 generates a symmetric square wave of a frequency which is directly proportional to the analog voltage output of multiplexer 134. This square wave signal is suitable for transmission thru the Communication module chain to the processor in the controller 40. The proportionality constant is nominally 10K Hertz/volt. Two analog output signals are also generated by the converter 147: a one-volt reference level which is used to drive voltage divider 144; a thermometer signal which is directly proportional to the absolute (Kelvin) temperature of the converter integrated circuit chip 147, and which has a proportionality constant of 1 millivolt/degree Kelvin. The latter signal is used to monitor the temperature of the fluid sensor electronics package. Referring to FIG. 11, because of commonality of function, both the fluid sensor 149 and the level sensor 139 are constructed on the same printed circuit board by suitable inclusion or omission of components and suitable placement of three jumper connections 201, 202 and 203. The curved dashed lines on the schematic diagram indicate the required jumper connections for the fluid sensor 149; the solid curved lines are the jumpers for the level sensor 139. The water/hydrocarbon sensor circuit 140 operates as described above in the discussion of the level sensor 139 to produce a logic signal at the output of inverter 157 which is applied to pin 10 of logic/switch 151 in the fluid sensor embodiment.
The float switch 224 is a magnetically actuated single-pole single-throw switch which is connected to the grounded electrode tip 221 in the float assembly 225 when no liquid is present. Flotation causes the float switch 224 to open. The switch is connected to Vbb through resistor 198 and, via the dashed jumper 201, to pin 11 of logic/switch 151, a channel select input. Hence flotation causes a high level at pin 11. The output of the water/hydrocarbon sensor circuit connects via dashed jumper 202 to pin 10, another channel select input of logic/switch 151. Pin 9 of logic/switch 151 is held low by software commands from the controller 40. Integrated circuit logic/switch 151 is a multiplexer chip which is used in the fluid sensor both as logic circuit 142 and as multipole analog switch 143. Its channel select inputs are exploited for their ability to do simple logic on two binary input signals and express the result by selecting one from the ensemble of analog input signals connected to the channel inputs. The voltage divider circuit 144 provides voltage levels of 0.75, 0.5 and 0.25 volts to pins 14, 12, 13 and 15 respectively of logic/switch 151. The logic is such as to produce the relationship codified in Table 1 between conditions and analog voltages at the output, pin 3 of logic/switch 151.
TABLE 1______________________________________ Logic Logic Frequency of VF Input Input Analog Switch Converter OutputCondition pin 11 pin 10 Output pin 3 pin 9______________________________________Air Low High .25 volt 2048 HzOil High High .5 4096 HzWater High Low .75 6144 Hz______________________________________
The output of pin 3 is applied as the analog input signal to voltage to frequency converter 147, pin 2. Output frequencies as shown in Table 1 are produced in response to the detected conditions. Note that the output pins 3 of the two multiplexer chips 151 and 134 are hardwired together; this is feasible because the inhibit input, pin 6, is under software control. When the inhibit input is high all analog switches go to the high impedance state. Converter 147 also provides a reference voltage of 1.0 volt on its pin 4 which is used to drive the voltage divider 144 and is connected to multiplexer 134, pin 4, so that it may be monitored by the controller 40. Converter 147 also produces a thermometer output signal on its pin 3 which is an analog signal proportional to the absolute or Kelvin temperature of the V/F chip with a scale factor of 1 mV/ connects to multiplexer 134 at pin 2. The scale factor of the converter 147 is set by capacitor 171 and resistor 180 according to the relation: F=V/10 the scale factor is 10 KHz/volt. Note that capacitor 171 should be mounted close to the pins to which it connects to avoid errors due to pickup and stray capacitance.
Summarizing the function of the invention, the controller 40 transmits a command down transmission line 30 to the probes 20 through 29. When a probe is identified as the probe that the controller desires to communicate, with the output from the voltage to frequency converter 135 or 147 as appropriate is transmitted to the controller via transmission line 30. Which of the converters 135 or 147 in a particular probe which is to be connected to the controller and the signal that is to be coded into oscillations by the converter is determined by the multiplexer 134 in response to the data portion of the command signal from controller 40. The oscillating signal is applied to a counter 111,112 within controller 40 which counts the number of oscillations occurring over a time determined by the TMROUTO signal from processor 90. The count, which represents the status of the condition sensed is utilized by the processor 90 to provide an indication of the status on outputs 93.
A feature of the invention is that the status signal is conditioned for transmission from the probe by a single component, the voltage controlled oscillator, as compared to the more complex digitizing of the prior art. Further, if it is desired to increase the accuracy of transmission in the prior art systems, rather complex digital algorithm must be used. Also, if a digital bit is lost, there is little one can do to recover it short of repetition of the entire signal. The accuracy of the frequency signal, on the other hand, may be increased simply by receiving it for a longer period. Also, if a portion of the signal is lost, the accuracy may be lowered, but crucial information is not lost.
A novel fluid status detector system has been described which permits simpler electronics to be employed in the system and has many other advantages. It is evident that those skilled in the art may now make many uses and modifications of the specific embodiment described without departing from the inventive concepts. Consequently, the invention is to be construed as embracing each and every novel feature and novel combination of features present in the fluid status detection system described.
In the drawings:
FIG. 1 is a diagramatic view of a preferred embodiment of a fluid status detector according to the invention in a typical operating environment;
FIG. 2 is a block diagram showing in detail the interconnection of the controller and probes shown in the embodiment of FIG. 1:
FIG. 3 shows a preferred format for a digital command output by the controller;
FIG. 4 is a block circuit diagram of the detector communications network of the embodiment of FIG. 1;
FIG. 5 is a detailed electrical circuit diagram of the communication module of the probes of FIG. 1;
FIG. 6 is a block circuit diagram of the controller of FIG. 1;
FIG. 7 is a detailed circuit diagram of the controller output signal interface shown in FIG. 6;
FIG. 8 is a detailed circuit diagram of the controller input signal interface shown in FIG. 6;
FIG. 9 is a block diagram of a fluid level sensor module according to the invention;
FIG. 10 is a block diagram of a fluid sensor module according to the invention;
FIG. 11 is a detailed electrical circuit diagram of the preferred sensor module circuit board;
FIG. 12 shows the sensor elements which are connected to the circuit board of FIG. 11 to form the sensor module of FIG. 9; and
FIG. 13 shows the sensor elements which are connected to the circuit board of FIG. 11 to form the sensor module of FIG. 10.
The invention in general relates to fluid status detectors, such as those which detect fluid leaking from tanks, and in particular a detector having probes which communicate with a central controller via a frequency signal.
U.S. Pat. No. 4,221,125, on an invention of John N. Oliver and Louis M. Sandler, U.S. Pat. No. 4,646,069 issued to Raymond J. Andrejasich et al and U.S. Pat. No. 4,116,045 on an invention of Bronson M. Potter, are exemplary of systems for detecting the presence of fluid pollutants. Such systems typically involve detection probes that are buried or otherwise placed in the region of possible sources of pollutants, such as gasoline storage tanks. The probes are connected via wires to a central controller which monitors the probe status. In the prior art systems the probes communicate with the controller via voltage signals in which the data communicated is represented by a certain voltage level. Such communication systems require digital or other relatively complex communication systems, especially if it is desired to have highly accurate communication.
It is an object of the invention to provide a fluid status detector in which the probes and controller communicate via a frequency signal.
It is a further object of the invention to provide a fluid status detector in which the accuracy of communication may be increased in a simple manner.
It is another object of the invention to provide one or more of the above objects in a fluid detector having a communication system that is less expensive than the communication systems of prior art detectors.
The invention provides a fluid status detection system comprising: a controller, a plurality of probes for sensing the status of fluids at probe locations remote from the controller, and a transmission line connecting the controller and the probes, wherein each of the probes comprises: means for sensing the fluid environment of at least one of the probes and producing a voltage signal characteristic of the status of the fluid environment; a voltage controlled oscillator means responsive to the voltage signal for providing an oscillating signal the frequency of which is representative of the status of the fluid environment; and wherein the controller comprises indicator means responsive to the oscillating status signal for providing an indication of the sensed fluid status. Preferably said indicator means further comprises a means for varying the resolution of the sensed fluid status. Preferably, the indicator means comprises: timing means for determining a time period, and counting means for counting the number of oscillations of the oscillating signal during the time period and for providing a digital signal representative of the number of oscillations. Preferably the voltage controlled oscillator means is incorporated in an electrical circuit and the means for sensing further includes a means for sensing the temperature of the electrical circuit and for producing a voltage signal characteristic of the temperature.
The fluid status detector of the present invention decreases the complexity and cost of the detector compared to the prior art detectors. Numerous other features, objects and advantages of the invention will become apparent from the following detailed description when read in conjunction with the accompanying drawings.